August 20, 2015 | Christy Perrin

Are you looking for a fun community building activity to help your watershed? Friends of Bolin Creek (FOBC), a small nonprofit in Orange County, North Carolina, brought together homeowners in a neighborhood along Bolin Creek to build rain gardens. In a three-part workshop series, neighbors learned how to design a rain garden for their yard, and then worked together getting hands on experience building one in the host’s yard. They will help each other construct new rain gardens and see the results close to home: attractive, wildlife friendly landscape features that help control runoff, improve groundwater infiltration and clean the water.

Watch a short video about this project created by The People’s Channel.

FOBC was formed in 2003 and is run entirely by volunteers, with occasional assistance from part-time interns when funds are available. The Bolin Creek watershed is about two square miles in southern Orange County. It runs through Carrboro and Chapel Hill, where it has been designated impaired for biological integrity by the EPA, before joining Little Creek and flowing into Jordan Lake.

FOBC members and homeowners work on the first stage of the rain garden.
FOBC members and homeowners work on the first stage of the rain garden.

For their Rain Garden Initiative pilot, FOBC collaborated with NC State and the Cooperative Extension for technical advice. Working with the Bolin Forest Homeowners Association, a number of potential properties with interested homeowners were identified and site visits performed. The best site for a demonstration rain garden and workshop was then selected. Most homeowners participating in this process attended the workshop.

The first day of the two-day workshop focused on learning how rain gardens fit into the water quality picture of the Bolin Creek Watershed, as well as the ins and outs of design, construction and placement. As homework, participants created rain garden plans for their own yards. Then FOBC coordinated the volunteers to dig the rain garden basin. For the final day, participants planted the rain garden, built a rock channel from the roof downspout to the garden, and fine-tuned berms and channels to perfect water flow into the garden. FOBC provided native plants and mulch.

The first rain garden the Friends of Bolin Creek and community members completed.
The first rain garden the Friends of Bolin Creek
and community members completed.

To encourage participants to follow through in building their own rain gardens, FOBC provided them with free technical assistance and native plants. Neighbors signed up on a “digging list” to help each other out with their gardens. Neighbors met neighbors, sometimes for the first time, to help each other build a rain garden. This growing community spirit is one of the best outcomes, in addition to improving water quality and the health of our streams!

Learn more about the Friends of Bolin Creek on their website.

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